David Crowder and Francesca Battistelli are Christian music artists trying their best to follow wherever God leads them to create, even if they end up somewhere unexpected. In 1996, while he was still a student at Baylor University, David and a few of his friends formed popular Christian rock and modern worship music group, David Crowder*Band. The group went on to win numerous Gospel Music Association Dove Awards and were nominated for a GRAMMY. After 16 years together, and just having released the number 2 album in the world behind Adele,the band decided to part ways. Crowder went on to perform as a solo artist and has just released a new album called I Know a Ghost. Today David shares how his parents and growing up in church shaped his path, and how, through this latest album, he came to recognize the power of God’s spirit living inside each of us. Francesca Battistelli has been a recording artist for more than a decade, all the while touring and raising her young family. Today Francesca tells us about her Broadway musical background, how she strives to be a courageous example for her children, and why she’s thankful God sent her back to the drawing board more than forty times until she had written all the songs for her new album called Own It.
David Crowder: I think for me if I were to sum up my journey, it’s always these unexpected turns that someone close to me can see something in myself that I can’t see, and and shoved me into a thing that I feel ill-equipped to partake of. And that’s my whole journey.
Following the Unexpected Path: David Crowder and Francesca Battistelli – Episode #128
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today’s guests are two Christian music artists trying their best to follow wherever God leads them to create, even if they end up somewhere unexpected: David Crowder and Francesca Battistelli.
In 1996, while he was still a student at Baylor University, David and a few of his friends formed popular Christian rock and modern worship music group, David Crowder*Band. The group went on to win numerous Gospel Music Association Dove Awards and were nominated for a GRAMMY. After 16 years together, and just having released the number 2 album in the world behind Adele, the band decided to part ways. Crowder went on to perform as a solo artist and has just released a new album called I Know a Ghost. Today David shares how his parents and growing up in church shaped his path, and how, through this latest album, he came to recognize the power of God’s spirit living inside each of us.
David Crowder: My name is David Crowder. I make music under the artist name Crowder, which is is my last name. I’ve been making church music since I was a part of a church I started when I went to Baylor University. That’s what leads me to talk to wonderful people like you, is making this music that I feel like God is just breathing through me for the church to sing and respond to Him through. So that’s what I’m up to right now.
Faithful Parents Shaped the Road Ahead
I grew up in Texarkana, Texas, and it’s a unique geographic location. It’s split into half of us in Texas, half of is in Arkansas. I like to say I barely made it in our fine Republic of Texas. I made it in Texas simply because Wadley Hospital is located off Stateline Avenue on the Texas side of things.
It was great. As a small town, everybody knew each other. I have a younger brother by five years. His name is Stephen. He goes by Steve. And my mom and dad are amazing people. If there’s anybody who had an influence on my life that’s been formative and lasting, it was definitely my parents and our family environment. We’d eat dinner together, and then afterwards we’d we’d all sit sit around the table, and my dad would read Bible stories. There was a series of books that were blue, and they were called the title Bible Stories. [My dad] would start at the beginning of the first one, and we go through the whole series, and then he’d start back over. That was just what we did every night: dinner together, and then he’d read from the blue books.
I loved it. It was the best when we’d have friends like stay over. They didn’t know what to expect when we’re eating dinner as a family—that is weird. And then afterwards, they were like, “Wait, what’s going on? We don’t get to go play yet?”
“Like, no. We’re going to read Bible stories together.”
So that was pretty cool. My friends wound up, after freaking out about it, they were like, “Man, this is like the coolest environment ever.” And I would agree with them. It was really amazing.
I’d say early on, I didn’t see anything ministry-oriented for me. I wanted to work for my dad, that’s what I wanted to do. I thought he had the coolest job as an insurance agent. He was an independent insurance agent in Texarkana, and I just thought he was the coolest dude ever.
He had an office with wood paneling and the wallpaper that was a forest scene. He had the cool phone that had the shoulder holder, where you’d be working on a computer, giving some quotes, giving some car quotes and still do business. I was like, I want to be that guy! I was giving car quotes at probably age 11, which is illegal. But you know, you could tell it was an 11-year-old on the phone, so they just kind of let me play along with the idea of being the boss man. But I wanted to do that. I really did.
The Power of a Purple Puppet
Age 7 is when I made my profession of faith, and it is a pretty funny story. At least I think it is.
My dad was pretty intense and authoritarian, and and he was really insistent that neither me or my brother would make a profession of faith until we understood what we were doing.
“[My dad] was really insistent that neither me or my brother would make a profession of faith until we understood what we were doing.” David Crowder
We go to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He drops off at the children’s church, and the adults go do adult things in the big church that we can’t go to. And so all these kids are over here hanging out, and there’s this dude on stage. He’s got this purple puppet named Eugene.
And so he’s talking to the purple puppet, and he’s asking the purple puppet Eugene if he wants Jesus in his heart. Believe it or not, the puppet acquiesced and said, “Yes, I do. I want Jesus in my heart.”
So all of us kids, we’re like, “I want what Eugene’s got!” You know, I’m running down front. Super excited.
I get in the car to go back to the hotel. Oh, and I didn’t run this by dad. So we’re getting a little nervous. And a lot of time, we’re almost back at the hotel, and my mom turns around like, “What’s wrong, David?”
And I start crying. I’m like, “I’m so sorry. I asked Jesus in my heart.” And I started talking about a puppet named Eugene. They look confused, however, grateful. They were super excited.
I like to say I made my first announcement following Jesus while I was under duress. I had the potential of violence coming and directed towards me from my father, so I feel like I’m in a long line of saints, the communion of the saints. I feel very in tune with them.
Like I said, my parents were super happy. But don’t underestimate the power of puppetry.
“Don’t underestimate the power of puppetry.” – David Crowder
The best thing happened was when I finally got youth-group age and middle school, where I got to work a puppet. We did puppet ministry. We’d go around town to different places, and we would do a puppet show.
The main thing you need to know about puppetry is the only way to do it is to move the thumb. Like you don’t, don’t do the puppet like that’s not that’s not proper technique. It was a special moment as I’m growing up in the church setting. I was getting to finally do the puppets.
And I finally get to meet Eugene the puppet. This is his moment. Nine years later, I’m already playing music do what I’m doing now. And we’re at this church in Oklahoma, outside of Tulsa. It’s called Church on the Move. I don’t know what’s happening, I’m playing with Ricky Skaggs. He’s a country artist. He’s playing there, and we’re playing there, and I don’t know what’s happening yet. I’ve heard the pastor’s name and I’m thinking, That sounds familiar. And at some point it dawns on me: No. That’s the dude with the purple puppet!
And so after we’re done playing, I tell the guy, his name’s Willie George. I go, “Pastor George. I was 7 years old in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the children’s church. And I made my profession of faith when Eugene—”
He goes, “Do you want to meet Eugene?”
I’m like, “Uh uh. For real?”
And he’s like, “Yeah, he’s in my office.”
I’m like,” Are you. . . ? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Like, “No, you can go.”
I went in his office. And sure enough he opens the case, and there’s Eugene, laying lifeless in this case. I had the courage like just touch him on the—it’s not a nose, like, he doesn’t have a nose, so it’s just whatever nose, his puppet nose is. Touching him right there, that was enough. I was like, “You need to put Eugene away, that freaking me out a little bit.”
So I got to meet Eugene. That was a special moment.
Reclaiming Faith Through a Church Band
As a kid, my family wasn’t a musical family, but we did have a piano in the house. And so it was really early on as little toddler—I don’t know what age you can start walking, but as soon as you start walking, you’d find all the things that make noise in the house. Piano was super prime for noise making. As soon as I could reach the keys, I’m banging on stuff. Especially if you say, “Don’t touch it,” that’s where you go into wherever you can’t.
I started banging on the piano as soon as I could reach it. Then my mom at some point was like, “Uh oh, I kind of recognize these tunes.” And apparently, I was picking out some melodies that were recognizable. And she’s like, “We gotta get the kid lessons.”
So she was shoving me off piano lessons as a little kid. I did not like it at all. I hated every second of it and fought it as much as I could. Thank goodness, again, Mom knew best and could see something that I couldn’t have seen and didn’t know would be important down the road.
I went off to Baylor to study music because I thought it sounded fun. I thought, Music is fun. Everybody loves music. I’ll get like a little music degree because it’s fun.
“I thought, Music is fun. Everybody loves music. I’ll get like a little music degree because it’s fun. . . . [But music] is super hard work.” – David Crowder, on studying music at Baylor University
So music is not fun. It’s hard work! It’s super hard work. There were hours and hours in the practice room at Baylor University.
My junior year of school, a church started that was geared toward college kids. And it came from Baylor doing a survey of their student population. Baylor’s a Christian university in the south, in the Bible Belt. And they found that over half their students never stepped foot in church their entire stay at school.
And I, having grown up in the church, being away from home, I fell in that demographic because I was having, I would suggest, a very stereotypical college experience, where I’m sorting through, What of this belief system that I grew up in am I going to hang onto and claim as my own, and what was just the result of my environment and cultural setting? All that stuff that where you’ve got a lot of ideas going up against each other when you’re in that college moment.
And the guy who started this church, he says, “Man, I want you to do the music for it.”
I’m like, “That is like the worst idea. That is a bad idea. I’m not your guy. It’s a terrible idea.”
And he really believed in me. “No, I think this is a reentry point for you to reclaim a lot of your faith.” I had a lot of baggage, and it was mostly attached to the institutional experience of church that had growing up in it and getting to see it up close. And it turned into a place where I was able to use my gifts that he could see in me, and let them come to life in a way that they hadn’t come to life before, as well as set down a lot of baggage that I had and reconnect to Jesus in a way that fit the way He made me and, in the end, still be a part of a community.
“I had a lot of baggage, and it was mostly attached to the institutional experience of church that had growing up in it and getting to see it up close.” – David Crowder
And so that’s really how I got on this journey.
On the front end, I was repackaging hymns, because it was terrifying for me to be in this position. I’m like “I’m ill-equipped and unqualified to be doing this.” And when you’re putting music with the ideas of the ways we think about God and one another and our relationship with the divine as humans . . . there’s a big gap to span. And when you’re using music attached to formation, it’s sneaky. Music’s sneaky. And we can put words in our mouths that can be detrimental to our understanding of God. And so I was terrified of that. I thought, Well, the hymns have been fully vetted, and these are they’re good songs. [That’s] the reason they’re still around. I mean, there were thousands and thousands of hymns that were written at this time, but we’ve we’ve narrowed it down to this, what’s in the few books we’ve agreed upon. And so I thought, “Okay, we can start here and find stuff we know we’re forming ourselves as we’re singing in a way that’s healthy and good. And it will be good for our devotional selves as a community.”
It wasn’t until about a year in that I started writing. And that was when we had a good team of people that were already a part of picking the songs, making sure that the service had an arc to it, that we were telling a story not just through the message that was coming, but as well as the experience walking into the music that’s happening. There was just a real idea that all of the senses should be engaged as we were getting together as a community to remind ourselves what God has done for us, and respond to that.
And so the Crowder Band, the David Crowder*Band was really nothing more than these guys that were there in school with me as well. We’re just the church band. As I said, we started writing original music, and the songs started leaking out. College kids [are] quite a transient population, you know.They’re going home for Christmas break r or over the summer, and the songs are going with them—they were taking the songs with them.
And so we started getting phone calls. “Hey, can your band—” We don’t even have a name, like, we don’t even know how to vet this. It’s like— “Can you do this retreat? We’ve got a college retreat coming up, can you all come play?”
We’re like, “Sure, we can play.” And so we became the David Crowder*Band because we didn’t have a name or anything, and they started just calling us the “David Crowder Band.”
So we chased that around for a while before we even had made a record or anything. And I guess it was ‘98 when a friend of mine now, who’s been a part of this whole musical journey, Louie Giglio, who’s my pastor in Atlanta—I was with him, and they had a couple of songs, I believe, on a live recording that they had done of a Passion conference down in Austin. And that began a relationship with him, and also the label that we’re partners with, Capitol CMG, started a relationship with them and they’ve been a part of the whole journey that’s been my music.
In ‘98, Louie sat down and said some very pivotal words and as I’m talking about the church and how the songs are going this way and that way. And he’s like, “Man, you know these aren’t your songs right? And that phrase right there put a responsibility, a weight and responsibility.
I’m like, “Well, we are a bunch of college kids. We don’t have any money or resources to go make a record or anything like that. We’re just lucky we’re pulling off church every week.”
And he’s like, “Well, my wife and I would like to pay for your church to go document the songs.” So we went down to Austin and made a record. And that’s been what I’ve been doing ever since. Louie and Shelley have been a part of the whole journey, and they’re still helping me make records today. I love it.
We were just the church band. We had some friends that saw something and what was happening in the four walls of that little church in Waco and thought, Maybe this is meant for people who were outside of the four walls of this little church in Waco. And that’s where the journey is. That’s where the journey really began of a larger platform.
Ending the David Crowder* Band Well
Narrator: Over the next 16 years, the David Crowder*Band toured the world and shared their music with millions of people. David describes how, in 2012, the band decided to part ways on the heels of their last hit record together.
David Crowder: If you’re a smart band, you try to build what they call momentum. You try to get some momentum going and people listen to what you’re doing, paying attention to what you’re doing, attached to the music, rooting for you as a band, being fans of you as a band. And and pretty much right at the time we’re peaking on momentum, we dropped the last record we put out. It was number two in the world. It was, like, Adele and then the David Crowder*Band, which was . . . our record was a requiem mass. It was 34 tracks, two discs-worth of a Catholic mass, and it’s number two on the planet. And we had already tapped out and said, “You know, this is the last record we’re going to do. We’ve got other things are ahead of us.”
My wife had been our manager, and I mean, she had been road managing with us, booking stuff early on. You wouldn’t know my name, I wouldn’t be sitting here if not for her working her rear off. And it turns out keeping up with a bunch of dudes that can’t find their keys is not a dream job.
It was time for her to get a life that was fulfilling and exciting to her. So she went back to school and wound up getting a design degree. She transferred all her business stuff and got a design degree, and now she’s killing it doing design stuff. I’ve never seen her happier.
Every one of us as a band member have a story like that, where it was a season, and life had developed in a way that we made choices that didn’t make sense on paper now. If you didn’t have the economy of faith, it makes no sense. Because in the economy that we were breathing in and out every day, we were right where you’ve worked really hard to be. But our values were . . . I care. I would rather my wife be next to me and thrilled and happy and full of life than have a have a number-one record.
“I would rather my wife be next to me and thrilled and happy and full of life than have a have a number-one record.” – David Crowder
I’m a bit like a utilitarian. Music is utilitarian for me. It’s useful in the sense that I feel gifted to allow music to help us say things back to God.
“I feel gifted to allow music to help us say things back to God.” – David Crowder
As a band, we kept our hands open. And sometimes God will take things away from and sometimes put things in them. As long as your hands are open, not hanging onto tightly to anything, it’s a very satisfying way to live. But it’s a different value system in a different economy than I think we’re used to. So that would be my proudest moment is how the band ended and what we what we chose to value.
Venturing Out in a Solo Career
Even though David Crowder*Band was basically our church band, we were locked in. Those are my people, I mean, it was a band.
And so when you’re listening to the records, it was six people in conversation, you know. That, I think, added to the diversity and the beauty of what I can say was that time musically because everybody had a voice and everybody was speaking into it. And the music didn’t look like or sound like any one of us. It was very much a collective.
And then on my first solo endeavor as Crowder, Neon Steeple was the first record. And I’m like, Oh man, now it’s going to be all my fault. There’s no blame’s displacement. Because also, there’s safety in numbers. And so now we can’t spread the blame around. “Well, I know! He was the one that really liked that part, and I didn’t like it,” you know. Now it’s just my fault.
If it wouldn’t have been so much fun, it could have probably have been a little terrifying.
But the people that were on the record and I was making the music with—and it was such a new experience to just chase whatever was in the air personally. If I wanted this person to play that person to play or go write with this person or that person—we were really insular in the previous entity, just because we were carrying a whole church community with us, trying to say something on behalf of our whole community there in Waco, Texas.
And here, it got to be a little broader. I got to explore a lot of the sides of music I hadn’t gotten to explore before. And it was just so invigorating and fun that I don’t think I had enough time to get super terrified until the moment when [you’ve signed off on the record] and now it’s out the door and you’re like, Uh oh. Arrow’s off the string. This could be tragic. But the world’s going to get a little taste of whatever it is this Crowder thing is.
There’s a confidence that comes in knowing you’re where you’re supposed to be. I don’t have goals. I’m not a good list maker. I don’t make lists, I don’t have good goals. But I’ve always prayed for light enough for the next step and the courage to take it. And I felt like, I know I’m supposed to take this step and whatever comes next, I don’t know. But I felt really wonderful making the thing, and it’s been wonderful getting to play and be around a lot of people that stretched me as a creator. I learned tons in just a short amount of time making that first record. So I was thrilled and not a lot of trepidation in it.
“There’s a confidence that comes in knowing you’re where you’re supposed to be. . . . I’ve always prayed for light enough for the next step and the courage to take it.” – David Crowder
The Holy Spirit’s Power Is in Each of Us
Narration: David discusses a new season as a solo artist and how working on his new record, I Know a Ghost, brought him new understanding about the power of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives.
David Crowder: Most of the time, most of our day is not reminding us that you’re living and breathing in the sacred space of God’s presence. And so it’s tough to remind ourselves of that. And music is amazing at doing that, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do with the last record, I Know a Ghost. I knew I wanted it to be really focused on on the Holy Spirit and how he’s inner-connected to our living and breathing, and that there is a communion afoot all the time and those that are in relationship. I knew I wanted to do that, but I didn’t have all the colloquial words. I had a lot of church words for it.
“You’re living and breathing in the sacred space of God’s presence.” – David Crowder
And then all of a sudden, I was trying to fall asleep. And this dawned on me—I’ve never heard the Holy Ghost talked about this [way] before, but I was thinking about the Last Supper and how Jesus is sitting with His pals and He’s like, “Hey, I’m going to go away, for real. You’re not hearing me. I’ve been telling you, but I’m about to go away for real. But don’t panic, because I will leave my ghost with you.”
I thought, That’s terrifying. Growing up, we didn’t do Halloween. We did Fall Festival. It was like, “Ghosts, we don’t talk about that. Some other people talk about that.”
And I was like, I’ve never once thought about how that’s a scary story to tell.
When the [Temple] veil tore, now suddenly, the spirit of God that was contained, and only the holiest of us could go be near and might not make it back out alive, is everywhere. And if we lived with that reverent thing in our chest, that terror that’s a holy terror, I wonder if it would change stuff?
So that was really the impetus for me to start understanding some of the language I could use on this record, to keep singing about the spirit of God in a way that was reverent and at the same time felt felt human enough.
I was trying to find language that felt conversational outside of the church and inside the church. Because also, the Holy Spirit is really difficult to talk about inside the church, depending on where your background is.
I grew up in First Baptist Church, Texarkana, Texas. And then my parents would take us me and my brother to wherever, in their language, “the spirit was moving.” That meant the music was going to be more energetic and people run around and had tambourines, that’s what that meant. And so we have a hard time describing where the Spirit is at work, even inside the church. And so I wanted to find language on this record that helped me have better words to sing when it comes to that aspect of God.
So I would say the difficulty in the writing process was just getting a handle on and understanding that. And then once that was sitting inside of me, man, I couldn’t stop writing. That’s why there 16 songs. There weren’t any songs that were difficult. They all were just, it was just coming and we couldn’t turn faucet off.
I have had more fun writing on this record than any I’ve had, which is great to be able to say after having done it for so long. I had so much fun on this one. And so I’m wound up about the songs and about the approach we had to making the record.
Every Space Is Sacred, Thanks to the Holy Spirit
There’s moments in my life where I can identify with that doubt, where I can identify with the feeling of isolation and the silence, when you beg heaven for something and can’t hear anything back.
“I can identify with the feeling of isolation and the silence, when you beg heaven for something and can’t hear anything back.” – David Crowder
There’s two places that I point to for myself when doubt’s a killer: I look backwards. I can see that God has, in my own life, come through over and over and over. I see all the miracles that have transpired in my life. I can see in the community of believers that I’m a part of—which I think is absolutely essential—when you look at the family and you see God’s come, He’ll come through. Even when I have doubt, I am centered and surrounded by community of saints in this time and space that I can say, “He came through for Joe-Joe over there. I saw what he was in, and man, I couldn’t see a way out. Look at what God’s done. Look where he is now.” And I love it.
In the Psalms, God talks about this and He says, “I’ve built a monument to my faithfulness, and it’s my very people.” That’s amazing, to think that a monument to God’s faithfulness is the work that He’s done among us as a community of believers is pretty spectacular.
Ever so often, these things pop up that like . . . for me, I’m in music. So there’ll be a song that all of a sudden the church is singing all over the world. A couple times a year, or once every couple of years, there’s just a song that goes around the world that . . . there’s just a breath in it. There’s a thing that elevates it.
And I cannot count how many people are like, “Bro! Have you. Have you read Jesus Calling?” To the point where I’m like, “No! I haven’t! Fine!”
This is an absolutely special thing. It’s just beautiful to be near. And I praise God when things like this happen in the church, and we have a collective synergy and an energy that changes what the church is. It’s just amazing that it’s been through something as simple as as being able to hear the voice of our Savior speaking to us. It’s just gorgeous. It’s gorgeous.
So this is I’m going to read from November the 14th. And it says this:
Bask in the luxury of being fully understood and unconditionally loved. Dare to see yourself as I see you: radiant in My righteousness, cleansed by My blood. I view you as the one I created you to be, the one you will be in actuality when heaven becomes your home. It is My Life within you that is changing you from glory to glory. Rejoice in this mysterious miracle! Thank Me continually for the amazing gift of My Spirit within you.
Try to depend on the help of the Spirit as you go through this day of life. Pause briefly from time to time so you can consult with this Holy One inside you. He will not force you to do His bidding, but He will guide you as you give Him space in your life. Walk along this wondrous way of collaboration with My Spirit.
And the scripture is Psalm 34:5 and it says:
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
And then 2 Corinthians 5:21:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
And in 2 Corinthians 3:18 in the New King James version is:
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
And then finally Galatians 5:25:
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
I love this because I’ve been able to be talking about the Holy Spirit, having made this record, I Know a Ghost. And it’s incredible to have this constant companion. This is the hard part, I think, is pausing briefly time to time to reset, to recenter and become aware that we’re in the very presence of God, and that His spirit is active around us and through us, in essence.
“The hard part, I think, is pausing briefly time to time to reset, to recenter and become aware that we’re in the very presence of God, and that His spirit is active around us and through us, in essence.” – David Crowder
So every room you enter is sacred space. Every communication, every time you’re in conversation with someone, it’s a sacred moment. And the space between the mouth and the ears is sacred space, to be able to speak life and to explain out loud to yourself and to others that you’re made in the very image of God and He created you so unique that there is nobody else on the planet like you, and you’re equipped to carry this very story and into every conversation and space that you are finding yourself. This is couldn’t be a more fitting passage and devotion for me, for sure.
Narrator: Stay tuned to hear our next guest, Christian music artist Francesca Battistelli, after this brief message about a special offer from Jesus Calling!
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Narrator: Our next guest is Christian music artist Francesca Battistelli. Francesca has been a recording artist for more than a decade, all the while touring and raising her young family. Today Francesca tells us about her Broadway musical background, how she strives to be a courageous example for her children, and why she’s thankful God sent her back to the drawing board more than forty times until she had written all the songs for her new album called Own It.
Francesca Battistelli: I’m Francesca Battistelli. I am a wife and a mom and an artist. I just released my fourth studio album.
Life as a Working Mom in the Music Industry
We live in Nashville Tennessee, and I have just loved getting to do ministry and write songs and share them with the world. Being a mom who works is a unique thing, but it’s been an amazing journey just raising my kids as I have been in ministry.
They are all super musical. And my oldest is a boy, he’s 8. And you know, he loves sports. He’s really great at a lot of things. He’s intelligent, and I’m like, “You could be anything.” And all of a sudden, he loves music. About two months ago, he just started saying, “When I grow up, I want to be a singer,” and just having all of this attention on music. He wants to play piano. And he’s been writing songs.
His teacher is a believer. They’ll be in music, and [she will] actually help him with composing, which I don’t even know how to do that. He’ll write it out and make it really legitimate. And it just it’s so sweet to see him being fed in that way.
They all can sing in tune and love music. My two-and-a-half-year-old literally sings all day long. He is just the happiest baby ever. So who knows? We’re opened to whatever the Lord has, whenever that day comes.
Immersed in the Arts from a Young Age
So I was born in New York, in Manhattan. My parents both come from the Broadway musical theater world. When I was one or two, they were new Christians and really felt like the Lord was calling them out of that whole world and out of New York. And so we moved not far away, to New Jersey, and they just left the business completely behind. They were going to have a big family and ended up only being able to have me.
Because their background is so arts and music and theater and so amazing, they exposed me to so much great music and theater and art and ballet from the time I was tiny. And it’s just been my lot in life to do something in the arts, because I’ve always loved it.
I did a lot of ballet. I danced ballet very seriously for about 10 years, and that’s what I thought I wanted to do. But in the midst of that, I remember being little and going to see The Secret Garden on Broadway back when it was still new.
And I just remember being incredibly . . . I don’t even know the word, just overcome by the whole experience. I think live theater is very moving. In the car on the way home, I remember the feeling of driving back to New Jersey with my parents and just thinking, That is what I want to do. I want to feel that way, and I want to make people feel that way. [I was] just [feeling] all of these emotions and all this awe of what was going on.
From that point on as a really young child, I knew that something to deal with the performing arts was what I was made to do. I love to sing, and I love to act, and I love to write, and I love to dance. I didn’t know what it was going to look like, and at in different seasons I think I was for sure that it was going to be different than this. But the Lord doesn’t waste anything, and He has a way of using your experiences for His plan and His purposes. And I’m so glad it ended up here.
“As a really young child, I knew that something to deal with the performing arts was what I was made to do. . . . [The Lord] has a way of using your experiences for His plan and His purposes.” – Francesca Battistelli
I’m an Enneagram 1, so I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. I can let that fear of not doing it perfectly stop me from doing it at all. And that’s something I’m working on, just personally trying to realize that sometimes done is better than perfect. I mean, there are things you want to definitely pay attention to: take your time deciding who you’re going to marry. Take your time deciding what to do with your life. But then there are things you just gotta do them, and you’re going to fail, and that’s okay. You’re going to learn.
That’s something I don’t want my kids never seeing: their mom [won’t] try something new just because she can’t do it perfectly. I know that’s not something I want to pass down to them.
“The Lord wants that willingness from us to just say, ‘It’s not about me. You want me to do this. Let’s go for it and see what happens.’” – Francesca Battistelli
An Album with an Unlikely Path
Narrator: After almost five years without a new record, Francesca just released her newest album called Own It. She tells us why she chose to release the album now, and why she’s thankful God led her toward a new record she didn’t even know she wanted to write.
Francesca Battistelli: It’s been four and a half years since the last record came out—which is crazy, especially in this day and age. But we started writing for the record two and a half years ago, so it wasn’t our intention to wait this long. But we’ve had two babies since we started writing this album.
We really feel like the Lord was behind the timing of this, because we would have done it differently. But I’m so glad it happened the way it did because I really thought that I was supposed to write a worship record. I thought that was the next logical step and what I really wanted to do, and that’s sort of the path we started walking down. And then we prayed over every single song, and the Lord kept giving us like these pop songs. I’m like, Okay, what am I supposed to do with this? But they were amazing and powerful, and they were becoming my favorite songs.
We probably wrote 40 songs for this record and had to pick. And so many of the ones that made the record were from the last six months, ones that would not have been written if we had released the record in our timing. And so to me, that’s just so the Lord.
I would love to still make a worship record someday, but timing wise, this is just so right. It’s my story. It’s a snapshot of where I am in this season of really trying to own it and really trying to walk in all that God called me, to not just reluctantly going along with what He has but saying, “Okay, you’ve put me here. I’m going to confidently and boldly walk in authority that I’m supposed to be here and be who I am and not try to be somebody else.” There’s just a lot of personal growth has happened for me in the last year and a half. This record is such a reflection of that.
“I’m going to confidently and boldly walk in authority that I’m supposed to be here and be who I am and not try to be somebody else.” – Francesca Battistelli
So “The Breakup Song” is one that I wrote with my buddy David Garcia and Bart Millard from our CD. We jokingly called it “The Breakup Song” forever. And then to me, it was like, “Well, that’s what it’s called. We’re calling it that.”
When we wrote it, I loved it, but I never expected it to be the first single. But it just kind of became the obvious choice. I don’t know how we were all on the same page. I felt like the message was really needed and the way that people responded to it has said that’s true.
For me, that song is so important. Fear is a universal struggle. And it was, for me, inspired by my mom, who has always been this very steady person. But about three years ago, she started struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, and it was just debilitating. And the Lord has delivered her from so much of it, and she’s so much better. But when we wrote the song, she was right smack dab in the middle of it. And I just wanted to give her a tool, something that she could play in her car when she was starting to feel that way. It has been that for her. And the stories I’ve heard it’s been that for others, and I’m so grateful. It’s that for me. I have to speak those words out over myself to remind me that I’m not owned by fear.
Learning That Seasons—and Capacity—Change
Narrator: As Francesca raises her family and records her music, she’s thankful for resources like Jesus Calling that encourage her and refresh her spirit.
Francesca Battistelli: I probably have three or four copies strewn about my house. But I remember getting my first copy. I don’t know where it came from.
I’m sure you hear this all the time, but whenever I’m in a season of reading it, it’s like, How everyday is this exactly what I need? Conviction or encouragement, it’s just, “Yep, that’s true. Okay, Lord, thank you for that reminder.” So yeah, I love it. I love it so much, and I’m just so thankful for such a beautiful resource. There’s a lot of devotions out there, but something special about [Jesus Calling].
I think that the biggest thing that I’ve learned in the past 10 years is that what it looks like right now is not what it always has to look like. Before I really figured that out, it would be difficult for me, and I would get really overwhelmed. I haven’t known what it’s like to parent any of my children without working and touring and being on the road. It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago when we found out we were pregnant with our fourth that we decided, “Okay, we’re just not going to tour for a long time.”
“The biggest thing that I’ve learned in the past 10 years is that what it looks like right now is not what it always has to look like.” – Francesca Battistelli
In our industry people say, “Oh, it’s so great, I’ve got such a huge break. We’re home for three weeks.” And we used to think that was so amazing. And the rest of your life, you’re just constantly on the road, back and forth with your kids. And we sort of just had to say, “No. We can’t physically do that right now, and we’re we’re okay with that. I have an album to make. I have a child to birth. There’s a lot going on. We’re just choosing not to be on the road 150 days a year.”
And it was a really really good thing for us to step back, because before that, we were just kind of on the hamster wheel—and there’s nothing wrong with that. It worked for us for many years. But when it stopped working, we had to be able to step back and look at it. And I think that’s what I have. I’ve learned something’s not going to work in every season. That doesn’t make it wrong. I have friends who are right in the midst of that season, with multiple kids, touring all the time, and it’s not that they’re wrong and I’m right. It’s just that’s not where we need to be right now.
So it’s that balancing act and constantly re-examining. Actually, I don’t even like the word balance because that implies there’s a perfect balance. There’s not—it’s more a juggle. You’re just keeping the balls in the air and keeping your hands open to what the Lord may have.
“You’re just keeping the balls in the air and keeping your hands open to what the Lord may have.” – Francesca Battistelli
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we visit with motivational speaker and former NFL football player Devon Still. When we sat down with Devon, he talked to us about his retirement from football, and the struggle he faced to reconcile who he was to himself and the people around him.
Devon Still: When you’re an NFL player, a lot comes with that: a lot of responsibility, a lot of notoriety. You’re put on a pedestal by people in society. And when you lose that sometimes you wonder who you are. You struggle with your identity. You wonder if the people around you really loved you for you or they loved you for the position that you were in.